Dress Business Casual -- Men

by Barbie Carpenter

A business casual office lets you swap your suit for more relaxed separates. Well-tailored slacks, button-down oxford shirts and versatile blazers form the basis of your business casual wardrobe. Mixing and matching these business casual pieces helps you create a variety of looks and maximize your work wardrobe.

The Basic Shirts

The classic business shirt, a long-sleeved button-down, works well in business casual environments and serves as the foundation of your outfit. However, unlike less casual offices, the business casual oxford shirt can embrace color and pattern, giving you more versatility.

Look for button-down shirts in patterns that suit your personality. You may opt for a classic black-and-white checked pattern, muted stripes or a pastel gingham. A bold solid-colored shirt is also appropriate for the dress code, whether you opt for a deep maroon or a bold yellow.

Short-sleeved golf shirts may also be appropriate. Assess your workplace dress code, and reserve these shirts for warmer months.

To avoid looking sloppy -- and risk turning your business casual look into a too-casual one -- always keep your shirt tucked in.

Layer Up Top

Add some depth to your business casual wardrobe with two layering items:

Tailored blazers cut a flattering shape and offer an extra layer of warmth when temperatures plummet. Wool or corduroy blazers work well during colder months, while you might opt for a neutral cotton blazer in the spring and summer. Blazers can be patterned -- think checks, tweed or seersucker -- or solid colored.

Sweaters can be paired with collared shirts for a classic, office-friendly look. Mix and match neutral sweaters with patterned collared shirts. Or, use the sweater as your source of color. Look for cotton, wool and cotton-cashmere blend sweaters.

Office-Friendly Pants

Well-tailored trousers are a must for a business casual workplace. Investing in several pairs is key, since you'll be wearing these pants daily. Khaki pants are often a man's go-to option for business casual looks. In addition to this classic style, you may opt for other neutral pants in shades of gray, brown and navy.

Flat-front chinos are a versatile business casual pant that will work well with your many shirt, sweater and blazer options.

While some workplaces allow jeans, not all do. Check how co-workers dress before you wear jeans. If jeans are appropriate at your office, choose a dark-wash denim that is free of wear. Non-distressed jeans should be in like-new condition.

The Right Accessories

Less is more when it comes to accessorizing in the office. Opt for only the essentials to complete your business casual look:

  • Belt: Wear a leather belt that matches your shoes every day.
  • Shoes: Neutral-hued leather shoes are a versatile classic that you can wear with a variety of business casual styles. Lace-up leather shoes -- avoid patent leather, which is too formal -- or leather loafers work well for everyday wear.

What to Avoid

Some looks are too relaxed for a business casual office environment and should be avoided:

  • Ill-fitting clothes: Clothes shouldn't be too tight or too loose.
  • Wrinkled clothes: Shirts and slacks should always be pressed and free of wrinkles.
  • Casual shoes: Avoid athletic shoes, sandals and hiking boots.
  • Shorts: Always wear full-length pants in business casual environments.

Photo Credits

  • XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.